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It's Actually Quite Warm in Here - Ship It, Fish!

About It's Actually Quite Warm in Here
Previous Entry It's Actually Quite Warm in Here Tuesday 29 August 2006 @ 17:19 Next Entry

Something lately about poker chatter annoys me. I've worked hard in my game to let absolutely nothing at the table annoy me. I used to get annoyed at rule infractions, people calling plain-old “trips” a “set” and other such things that are pointless that should never impact one's emotional state. Sometimes I get overly annoyed at the way the club is running a table, but I at least have the good sense to quit the game rather than keep playing when annoyed. Ranting here is a way to vent it without putting it into the table. So, here's one of those rants.


The term “cooler” is just being abused all over the place. In other words, “cooler” is the new “nice hand, sir”. People lose money and then like to argue that there was no way they couldn't have gotten away from the situation where they lost.

Since I have a few readers who aren't assimilated deep into poker lingo, I should explain what the term “cooler” means traditionally. (I suppose this explanation will offend my friend, a lexicographer who works for the Oxford American Dictionary, but someday, he and I will actually get to work on a real dictionary of poker.) For the moment, I suppose I should refer to the mediocre (at best) dictionary we have, which is Wiesenberg's Official Dictionary of Poker. He defines cooler, and the original term it's derived from, as follows:

cold deck
(n) — A deck, presumably with preset hands in it (usually with several good hands, the best of which will go to the dealer or his confederate), surreptitiously substituted by a cheat for the deck he is supposed to be dealing. So called because, after cards are dealt for awhile, they warm a bit to the touch, while a cold deck actually feels cool. To bring in a cold deck, the thief must perform a switch. A cold deck is also known as a cooler.

A literal “cold deck” was something you actually had to fear in the old days. During the riverboat era of poker in the 1800s, for example, poker was primarily a game of “cold decks” to trick tourists. These days, encountering a crooked dealer working with a player is rare indeed, and the terms are generally used figuratively rather than literally — for situations that come up where one player was doomed to lose the maximum to another.

And, like anything in poker, people latch onto the term as way to excuse their own bad play. Most poker players will jump through hoops to find a way to blame something or someone else for mistakes they've made. The figurative use of the word “cooler” is just that — a way to say, What else could I have done? when there often could be something else done.

For example, I've heard people call it a cooler when their out-of-position opponent flops a set when they have aces and bets into them. I've heard people say having K-Q on a K-Q-T board is a cooler when their opponent has KK, QQ, TT, or AJ. I've heard people say when they have the King high flush against the Ace high flush, it's a cooler. These situations are not coolers. They are hands you can get away from if you play them correctly!

Heck, even the would-be classic HE cooler — AA vs. KK preflop — isn't really one when the money is deep. When your opponent puts in the fourth raise and you have KK, what else does he have? Is he really doing that with QQ or AK? It's pretty hard for him to have exactly the other two kings, after all.

The proverbial coolers are situations that you actually can't get away from no matter what you do. Before you go running off saying it's a cooler, take a close look at your play, ask a better player than you, and try to figure out if you could have gotten away, or at least played it slightly differently to minimize your losses.

Finally, though, for those of you who are guilty of abusing the term, don't feel too bad, as there are pros that do it too. On one of the episodes of GSN's High Stakes Poker with Phil Hellmuth, he called off a massive amount with KQ on a K-Q-7 board when Greenstein had 77. Did he really think Greenstein would bluff at him? Or, that Greenstein would get it all in with a mere AK? Of course it wasn't a cooler, Hellmuth is just clueless in NL HE cash games.

Now, the real cooler I saw on that show is the most recent episode, where Hansen held 5d 5c and Negreanu holds 6s 6h. They built a preflop pot of $11,800, and Hansen checked the flop of 9c 6d 5h, Negreanu bet $8k, and Hansen check-raised making it $26,000 to go. Negreanu just called.

The turn fell the “cooler card”, the 5s. Hansen bet out the turn for $24,000 and Negreanu called. The river came 8s. Hansen smartly checked, probably hoping that Negreanu had a straight, and Negreanu bet $65,000 out into $111,700, Hansen check-raised for $167,000 more.</p>

Negreanu eventually called, but he even speculated at first, you might have the nuts here, then adding, if I lose this pot it's a cooler. Now, this probably was a cooler. The reason being that there are so many hands that Hansen would play that way. Hansen, as a loose preflop player, can have 58s (and was just semi-bluffing on the flop), 56 (having flopped two pair and filled on the turn), and maybe even some sort of straight holding (although pretty unlikely).

There are a few hands that fit the action that aren't 55, 99, and 88. So, one could argue that it is really a cooler. Indeed, the fact that Negreanu didn't automatically call the river check-raise is a tribute that he can actually dodge the proverbial bullets.

Of course, an interesting postscript here for me is that I wrote most of this post last weekend, and didn't get a chance to put it up. Since then, some have argued that Daniel could even get away from this hand that I was about to hold up as the “quintessential cooler”. This just goes to show how easily that term is abused. Even while digging carefully for an example, I found a hand that there was some debate about.

Anyway, think twice or three times before you go calling something a cooler. It probably isn't one most of the time.

Here endeth my rant; hopefully this is enough to get it out of my system and stop me from ever thinking of it again. Of course, my goal is for my opponents to think it's a cooler every single time I beat them, so I will try hard not to point out what is and isn't a cooler at the table.

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